Football fans all over the world turned down offers from major European clubs to launch a European Super League earlier this year. The planned league was able to entice 15 clubs to join, with 12 of them being founder members.
Though league administrators and team owners were glad to gain a new source of revenue, fans were not pleased with the money grab. Players lashed out against the ESL as well. They didn’t just want to avoid further fixture congestion; they also wanted to play football for the sake of the spectators, not to make more money from them.
The ESL was canceled in a matter of weeks, with FIFA threatening clubs and players. Many people were relieved to see the ESL come to an end so quickly, because they considered it as an Americanized version of sports that prioritized business over the spirit of competition.
Still, it appears that Europeans, particularly England, are not yet out of the woods. The NFL is considering a move to London while the Premier League battles over-the-top owners with deep resources (and foreign interests). Despite the reality that American football has a much smaller fan base outside of the United States, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is committed to expanding the sport internationally.
After all, as the regular season approaches the playoffs, American fans fill stadiums with season tickets and wager on NFL weekly picks. Despite low international interest, the NFL’s Super Bowl Championship game consistently draws over 100 million viewers and billions in wagers. Clearly, the league is a force to be reckoned with… But what would a franchise in London, England look like?
A Millions and Billions Issue
The biggest challenge in London isn’t necessarily a lack of supporters. Instead, the NFL must find a billionaire investor ready to fund an expansion or relocation to London. Not only is the city one of the most costly in the world, but putting in the infrastructure and hiring the right people to run a successful franchise would cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
A potential London franchise’s future depends on extremely strong pockets—as well as a proclivity for business. Aside from establishing a new team in London, a team owner would also have to cultivate a new audience, which may include sports fans who aren’t interested in long-term support for an American football team.
Warnings about red tape
Aside from the practical hurdles of funding and operating a successful NFL franchise outside of the United States, potential owners would also have difficulty negotiating local rules, particularly those relating to taxation. There are significant disparities between UK and US legislation, particularly when it comes to money markets such as sports franchises.
Much higher tax rates, as well as other regulatory constraints connected to player contracts, salary, and foreign trading rights, are unlikely to interest American owners. Despite these obstacles, Goodell has stated repeatedly that he intends to establish a London team before 2025.
The NFL intends to use London as a base of operations in order to grow into European markets. Existing sports fans may have some reservations about the ESL and its Americanized economic model.
Building on the Popularity of International Series
As previously said, one of the most difficult aspects of relocating an NFL team to another country is establishing a fan base. The NFL, on the other hand, has already attempted to do so with its International Series, which includes exhibition games in London and Mexico City.
Despite the lack of a full-time fanbase that would support an NFL team year in and year out, the International Series has been a consistent winner. Local sports fans have packed stadiums such as Wembley and the Estadio Azteca. It might not be as difficult as you think to turn this enthusiasm into a real fandom.
A London franchise, on the other hand, would have to meet new fans halfway: season tickets would have to be much cheaper than in other regions, and officials would have to organize activities to familiarize the team with its new city and vice versa.